Super Bowl 2022: 'Detroit Rams' gear hot items for Lions fans supporting Los Angeles Rams QB Matthew Stafford

DETROIT -- A fictitious football franchise is drawing a strong reaction from the Detroit Lions fan base on the eve of Super Bowl LVI, which features the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals.

"Detroit Rams" shirts, which show the Rams' head on a Lions logo, are being sold and displayed at the Pro Sports Zone memorabilia store in Livonia, Michigan, on the outskirts of Detroit.

Although many local fans are still rooting for former Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford, in his first season with the Rams, the graphic continues to stir mixed emotions.

"He played in Detroit for 12 years. Unfortunately, the team didn't go anywhere, but he's such a great person on and off the field that you're still rooting for the person to do well," said owner John Yu, who opened the store in 2008. "I still want to see him succeed."

The shirts were designed by TheDLine company, which celebrates all things Detroit, as a fun way to continue to support Stafford, who was traded to Los Angeles for Jared Goff ahead of this season. Yu noticed the popularity of the graphic on social media and bought the design.

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"We know that there's a lot going around on the internet and a lot of mixed opinions on the shirt," said Molly Gacioch, the store manager. "We understand that it might be somewhat controversial, but every fan is a little bit different in the way that they choose to support and show their fandom, but one way or another, people can choose what they want to do and how they support a player or a team."

Lions season-ticket holder Mark "Pilgrim" Mullins calls the Detroit Rams "ridiculous."

California resident Errin Mikals, who first became a Lions supporter during the Barry Sanders years, says it's "catchy, but wouldn't buy it."

However, die-hard Lions fan Robert Elbert has found humor in the logo and has read many of the comments that have circulated since the image went viral. Personally, Elbert remains a loyal Stafford fan, but he said he wouldn't rock the shirt.

"We've all grown with Stafford. I would wear a Stafford jersey before I wear a Detroit Rams shirt because I'm not a Rams fan," Elbert said, laughing. "But, him going to the Super Bowl is like a part of us going. But at the same time it's kind of cringing because I'm a Lions fan, I'll never be a Rams fan. To us, he's still our quarterback, but it's like we're saying we're giving up and we'll never make it to the Super Bowl and this is the closest we'll ever get."

Despite the Lions possessing the NFL's longest drought between postseason wins, which spans three decades, the Detroit fan base remains loyal.

Will Craft, who is from Detroit and is another lifelong Lions supporter, has made weekly posts in support of Stafford as he has watched him reach new heights in his career this season, throwing for 4,886 yards and 41 touchdowns in 2021. Craft shared the Detroit Rams post on his social media account as soon as he noticed it, but he says he's smart enough to differentiate what the Detroit Rams image represents.

"I like it, but at the end of the day, we're not riding with the Rams for the Rams, we're riding for No. 9," Craft said of Stafford. "I don't understand how this is so hard to separate. No, I'm not bothered. He plays for the Rams now, so technically, yes, we have to root for the Rams because he's the quarterback, but with me, it's about No. 9 and it's always been about my quarterback. In my T.O. [Terrell Owens] voice: That's my quarterback."